San Francisco 49ers (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
The 49ers had an impressive week 1 victory, beating the Vikings 20-3, but I still think they could end up being a 5 or 6 win team. It’s very possible that their week 1 play isn’t representative of how good they’ll be this season and that they were able to take advantage of a Minnesota team that isn’t as ready to take the next step as people think, after losing two key offensive linemen for an extended period of time (center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt) before the season even started.
On paper, the 49ers just don’t look that good, after an 8-win season in 2014 and all they lost this off-season. They lost right tackle Anthony Davis, middle linebacker Chris Borland, middle linebacker Patrick Willis, and defensive end Justin Smith to retirement, left guard Mike Iupati, cornerback Perrish Cox, and cornerback Chris Culliver, outside linebacker Dan Skuta, and running back Frank Gore to free agency, and outside linebacker Aldon Smith and defensive end Ray McDonald with off-the-field issues.
They did add wide receiver Torrey Smith in free agency and they get cornerback Tramaine Brock, defensive end Glenn Dorsey, defensive tackle Ian Williams, and middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman back from injury. They have solid depth, good young players like running back Carlos Hyde, outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, and cornerback Kenneth Acker, and they should have fewer injuries this season, but this still isn’t a very good team.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, won’t be as good offensively this season, after having the fewest offensive adjusted games lost in the league last season, already without center Maurkice Pouncey for an extended period of time with injury. They’ll especially struggle to maintain high level offensive play early in the season with stud running back LeVeon Bell and promising young wide receiver Martavis Bryant suspended. On the defensive side of the ball, they struggled week 1 against the Patriots, as they did all of last season.
However, I still think we’re getting line value with the Steelers as mere 6.5 point favorites here, especially with cornerback Brandon Boykin expected to play, after surprisingly missing the first game of the season. Boykin is one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL and only didn’t play week 1 because he was recently acquired in a trade from Philadelphia and hadn’t gotten the defense down yet. This line suggests that the Steelers are just 3.5 points better than the 49ers, which I disagree with. As long as the line stays under a touchdown, I’m comfortable putting money on Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Steelers 28 San Francisco 49ers 17
Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -6.5